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Discussion paper presented to the Waste Management Association of Australia

Presented by Reiner Wenzel, Managing Director, Link Pty Ltd. Brisbane 2 July 98.

Tyre Recycling in Australia

Tyre recycling in Australia can best be described as

"Some talk, but little action".

It is estimated that approx 17 million tyres are being discarded annually. Less than 1 million tyres are being recycled into a reusable product. What is the reason? Is it the unavailability of technology? Is it that no one is "doing it" or is it that no one wants to use the product from "old tyres" because there is a stigma attached?

Letís take a few steps back. What is a discard tyre? For example, a conventional car tyre when it is new, weighs about 10 Kg and consists of 85% rubber, 12% steel and 3 % fibre. When this tyre on an average family car needs replacing it still weights 9 kg and has the original amount of steel and fibre components. So why are we throwing away a product which could be reused, after it served us perfectly well for 80,000 Km? There is a market for the steel, fibre and the rubber.

Most common practice is that the tyres end up in a landfill. Currently in most metropolitan areas the tyres are cut because over the years whole tyres work themselves up to the surface of a landfill. Alternatively tyres are buried in a monofill with the excuse that they could be recovered in the future. Every one knows these monofills are there forever. Some local councils are stipulating the tyres have to be cut, and then buried or monofilled. No one, however, stipulates the size the tyres must be cut into or the volume to weight ratio is seldom policed.

So what are the options?

To process the enormous quantity there are several options available, none however will likely be possible unless there are a few basics in place .. such as

At all levels of government there must be a united and sensible approach to this problem. this includes

1. The total ban of whole tyres from landfills.

2. A user pays principle is to be introduced which can be tacked on to the price of a tyre at the point of sale,

3. The proceeds of this "Levy" is to be administrated by an "Agency" or organisation.

4. Licensed tyre recyclers would received funds from the agency depending on the level of recycling, the licensed recycler carries out

For example

25% of the levy is paid for a tyre ending up in a land fill or monofill (basically covering cutting and collection costs) the remaining 75% goes in to the fund.

50% tyre being used for example as tyre derived fuel or use in a landfill as a drainage or methane gas extraction medium would attract 50% of the levy, the balance 50% goes in to the fund.

75% of the levy is paid for a tyre which is cut smaller than 25mm and has steel removed. The remaining 25% goes in to the fund

100% of the levy is paid for a tyre which is reintroduced into society or a new product.

5. The remaining funds (which is the difference of the moneys received and the moneys paid out, less administration fee) is paid to companies or individuals for research/ field trials, developments of new technology and so on.

This plan which I am promoting is proven elsewhere i.e. Taiwan, Canada and EC. The tyre disposal situation is under control with implementation of this concept. Based on this simple 5 step plan, the following will inevitably happen. Companies with new or existing technologies or products which can be made from tyres will emerge and use this resource. It is a fair system. It is self funding, has enormous export potential, has job creation, is environmentally sound and it is a service to our society. Whilst the Department of Environment attempted to instigate a tyre levy, the previous Queensland State Government squashed it because "self interest" groups with political clout made this impossible. I sincerely hope the current Government has an more enlighten approach.

So why does it not happen?

To begin with it is a simple thing to bury the rubbish society creates - the "put it in the hole" is such an easy option. Most local councils have their own "Expert" who just doesnít see the big picture or is unable to do so due to political pressure. By world standards we are far behind, the lucky country syndrome of "we have enough open spaces" is often mentioned and "just to put it in the dump" is outdated. It is impossible for any one tyre recycling organisation to approach each individual "Expert" and convince him or her to even use some of the products on a trial basis. Shredded tyres, for example, can be used as an alternative day cover or drainage medium instead of natural resources being used and then covered the next day with more rubbish.

This attitude is a guarantee that in the foreseeable future nothing DIFFERENT will happen with tyres in Australia! It is a sure bet that a similar amount of tyres will end up in the same place as last year and the year before. Even although there are successful applications of uses for discard tyres in different parts of the world, there is still a negative attitude to try one or more of these successful methods. What proves to be successful in one area should be positively reviewed by another authority without having to undertake yet another feasibility study wasting resources and valuable time.

Why should a company invest the millions of dollars necessary to develop a product or process and not even have the guarantee of supply of discard tyres? Why is it possible for tyres to be dumped in landfill or at best cut into three pieces and then qualify as "SUITABLE FOR LANDFILL" and the disposer still qualifies as a recycler? In the same area there could be an organisation trying to become established as a genuine recycling operation and has to compete with a "dumper". The dumper collects the same disposal fee and has minimum outlays compared to the organisation with expensive machinery and the costs relating to that.

There have been some genuine approaches even by large companies such as Pacific Dunlop in Victoria and many others but they all have valid reasons why it failed to proceed. A local company Masterfibre is importing rubber buffings for their products from New Zealand.... Why?....... Another company on the Sunshine coast (RTI) is in the process of establishing itself. So is another company (CHIP TYRE) which is in the final stages of positioning their equipment in the Ipswich region. Both of which are true tyre recyclers. It should be assured that the waste tyre quantity which these companies can process, reaches them instead of companies which collect, cut and/or bury only.

My Company, Link together with many "believers" has developed over a period of 6 years, a process (at my expense) which today is the most advanced technology available. On my extensive research traveling around the world, attending industry trade shows like the ITRA, SEMA and inspecting highly successful operations, I have been told Link has, indubitably , the most advanced and versatile technology available. A process, which I am proud to say, works well. But, it almost didnít get that far. We now have machines installed and operating for example in Malaysia, China, Taiwan & USA. We did not rush out and build a machine to just process tyres. Instead, we listened and learnt what the needs of the industry were. Link designed a series of machines to produce a range of products cost efficiently. These products are now the raw materials for the numerous innovations, replacing in some cases non-renewable resources.

Recently we installed a factory with a line of machines for BATR, operating near San Francisco, California, with the company, Waste Management. California is the toughest of all markets. We have received from the State of California a Proclamation. In the British system this is the equivalent of "By appointment to the Queen". As you all know, only the best need apply. Better still we didnít even need to apply. We had to meet the following criteria:

1. The whole tyre has to be recycled 2. No air or water pollution 3. No run off 4. Low power consumption 5. 100% of the tyre had to be re-used.

Link-BATR, Waste Management and the local authority worked with the State of California and have, in addition, to the above, declared that there will at no time be any tyre or partly processed tyre in the open. An automatic sprinkler system was installed in the factory. In addition, on to each machine a fire dousing system was installed. Link developed a wet filter system which has eliminated the possibility of dust explosions and a reusable clean fibre by-product is now available for resale.

There is in place an emergency plan which includes on-site storage for fire fighting run off water for up to 5 hours. The surrounding area is pleasantly landscaped. In return the State of California has awarded BATR a grant of US$ 150,000.

In addition to the grant, the State of California has set aside a sizable amount of funds to allow BATR and Link and/or any other individuals or orgaisations/companies to carry out research, develop new technology, carry out field tests and other discard tyre related items.

We have ensured patent protection for our key technology is in place and have at present several new technologies under development. For example, a new completely different approach to the grinding and granulating of rubber. Link is also working on an exciting process which allows the black tyre chips to be coated with a wide variety of bright colours. The coloured rubber is to be placed as a loose fill in a childrenís playgrounds! Perhaps the most exiting prospect is the possibility to "Devulcanize" the rubber in our specially developed machines which we built for a Malaysian, a Chinese and an American rubber devulcanisation process called ReViveTM. This process developed by ART is something even the most pessimistic people see as a "positive" development.

In your folder we have put together a few pages of relevant reference material. Included are articles on innovative products produced from discard tyres. These products were made possible by "open minded" people, who have acknowledged the need and have done something about it.

All it takes is a program, a common goal and industry will come up with solutions.

More information can be obtained from our web site. http://www.link-pl.com.au

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